Author Interview with Gonzalo Bravo

Co-editor Gonzalo Bravo takes a moment to discuss the recently published Sport in Latin America.

Why did this book need to be written?

The study of the managerial, organizational, policy, and governance aspects of sport has received considerable attention in the scholarly literature. From a cross cultural perspective most of what is known comes from research conducted on developed nations, particularly the U.S., Canada, the UK, Australia, New Zealand and many other countries in Europe. In regards to Latin America, it is undeniable that the scope and breadth of literature on sport in Latin America is limited. Sport scholars have failed to address many different areas within the broad field of sport management. The study of policy, organization, and governance of sport in Latin America is a relatively new endeavour that is in need of urgent attention by academics. It is this lack of attention that motivated us to pursue and organize this project.

What do you hope readers will take away from this book?

This book offers an overview of some of the main issues that influence the growth and development of sport in the Latin American region, specifically in countries that fall within the so-called Iberoamerican heritage of Latin America. While each chapter was written independently, and there was no attempt to compare systems, some of the aspects covered in this book suggest that a number of challenges faced by these countries –in terms of how sport is organized, funded and governed– repeat from country to country. Similarly, it is also possible to identify that a number of shared practices exist. For example, there is not only significant government involvement but also most of the funding for this sector comes from public subsidization. By the same token, there is not much involvement of the private sector, or at least, it is safe to say that its presence is less visible, particularly when compared with the role of the state. Finally, across the region there is a need to open more opportunities for women to take more leadership roles in sport. In this regard, in Latin America, women leadership in sport falls significantly behind when compared with the actual role women have played in political life. We hope those who read this book, and particularly those interested in comparative research, would be able not only to delve into these and other issues with a much closer eye, but also find that it contributes to expand the body of literature on sport policy and management in Latin America.

What are some current trends in the field?

There are a number of issues that are occurring in Latin America that, without any doubt, are shaping the sport industry in a fast way. For example, over the last decade there have been a surge in interest by many countries in the region to organize sport events, particularly mega sport events. While many of these events are unknown to the rest of the world, in the context of Latin America, many of these sporting events represent important ventures that require significant commitment from the country and cities that host them. In most cases, these events are organized around an Olympic cycle of four years, like the South American and the Bolivarian Games, both of which involve thousands of participants and require years of complex logistics. In addition, a number of world class events are being hosted more frequently. Thus, recently FIFA not only hosted the Men’s World Cup in Brazil in 2014, but also different editions of the FIFA age group World Cups have been also hosted in the region. Then, there is the Dakar Rally which hosts a South American phase, and the Military World Games which were recently organized in Brazil and, of course, there is the upcoming summer Olympics this year, and then the Youth Olympics Games which are scheduled for Buenos Aires in 2019. All of these are examples that illustrate Latin America –as a region- does not want to fall behind in this world trend of using sport as a mean to brand their countries. Also, recent events inside and outside the domain of sport are also (or will be) shaping the state of this industry in the region. First, it is the recent scandals in the governance of world football (particularly in FIFA) in which many football associations across Latin America will be forced to re-engineer their own structures, and then is the recent opening of the U.S.– Cuba diplomatic relationship which for sure will change the landscape of world baseball. These and many other issues not only open opportunities to scholars interested in cross-cultural research to study sport in the region but also provide the justification to examine the always complex relations that exist between sport and nation-states.

What experience led you to write this book?

As I mentioned above, the dearth of literature on sport policy, governance and management focused on Latin America was one of the main reasons. But also, it was our personal experiences which motivated us to pursue this task. As professionals who have transitioned our careers from the board rooms of sport clubs, national sport federations, and governmental offices located in the Global South to the world of academia positioned in the Global North, we have learned not only how to reconcile two distant realities (practice vs. academy), but also how to make sense of the knowledge and best practices that emerge in the Global North for the benefit of the industry situated in the Global South, particularly in Latin America. In my own case, my early involvement in the sport industry occurred in my home country Chile. There I had the opportunity to work for one of the largest multisport clubs in South America (Club Deportivo Universidad Católica in Chile) and witnessed first-hand many of the problems and issues that are addressed in this book. In addition, during the mid-1990s, I served as a consultant for the Chilean government and helped to develop the current sport law in that country. A similar case is with my colleague, Rosa Lopez de D’Amico, who not only has played a critical role in the governance of sport in Venezuela but also has led the creation of the sport management association in Latin America. Without any doubt, these personal experiences have significantly contributed to raise our own interest in understanding the role sport plays in the region.

How does the book resonate with current affairs?

It is undeniable that the recent 2014 FIFA World Cup and the upcoming 2016 Rio Olympic Games have sparked interest among scholars, politicians, sport industry practitioners, media experts and also the general public about the impact these types of events have on countries of the so-called Global South. Hopefully, the interest to study sport in Latin America will remain after the summer Olympics of Rio 2016. In this regard, we believe the interest to advance scholarship on sport in Latin America, particularly on sport policy, management and governance, will be triggered not only by the momentum created by the Olympics, but also by the increased interest that exists –outside the region– of the role Latin America plays in today’s world stage of economics, politics and popular culture as well.